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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview with Senator John McCain
Aired February 14, 2008 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive -- John McCain, fresh from a major endorsement by a former rival.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A true American hero, the new president of the United States, Senator John McCain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He's closer than ever to locking up the Republican nomination.
Can he seal the deal with the GOP base?
Could wooing the right put him wrong with moderates and Independents in the general election?
And would he rather face Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama come this fall?
Senator John McCain is next only on LARRY KING LIVE.
We go back a long way don't we?
Back to a historic night in South Carolina many moons ago and a debate between the president and Senator McCain. We might discuss that a little later.
But first, were you surprised at the endorsement today by Mitt Romney?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I was a bit surprised because it's been a short time since the primary, since he decided to suspend his campaign. I'm very appreciative. He could have waited until like March 4th, as you well know, after the Texas and Ohio primaries. So I was a little surprised.
But I'm very appreciative but he came out very quickly and this is an important time, as you know, to keep the momentum going in the race.
KING: He was rough...
MCCAIN: So I'm very appreciative.
KING: He was rough on you during the -- and he also accused you almost every time of being a liberal.
Yes, well, he and I share the same principles and values and goals. We're the party of Abraham Lincoln Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. We had differences on issues, of course. Otherwise we wouldn't have been running against each other.
He ran a tough campaign. He got millions of votes in the Republican primaries. And I hope that his endorsement will convince many of those Republican voters to support my candidacy. And so I'm very appreciative. And I think he has a very -- he has earned himself a very important spot in the Republican Party.
KING: Senator, are you really looking forward to this?
KING: I mean really.
MCCAIN: Larry, there is nothing more exhilarating. There is nothing more invigorating. Look, I'm the guy that stood fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. And as I often say, if my old company officer, the Marine captain, were here today, he'd said in America, anything is possible.
KING: What do you make of Mr. Huckabee, who tonight still remains in the race. I know you said you'd like to see him leave. He said you're not going to be anointed.
MCCAIN: Well, I respect Governor Huckabee. I have a good relationship with him. We've run a very respectful campaign. I still think one of the great lines of all the many debates we had -- I think 15 or 16 -- was when he was asked what Jesus would do. And, you know, his response was well, Jesus would be smart enough not to run for public office.
MCCAIN: You know, he has a very winning way about him and I respect if he's going to stay in the race. I am more confident today, in light of our victories in Virginia and Maryland and the District, that we are on the path to the nomination. But I respect Governor Huckabee. If he wants to stay in this campaign, stay in.
KING: All right, the GOP base -- the core conservatives, as they're called -- a lot of them aren't feeling the political love that others may have for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now what's going to happen is all of us just, OK, who is the conservative alternative?
You've got to go to Huckabee now, Rush?
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: There is no conservative alternative in the race. It's just that simple.
LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don't think it's enough to say that you know, you were a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution. I think the question is what have you been doing for conservatism lately?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Why do you think -- especially from what might be called the far right -- you bring out such venom?
MCCAIN: I don't know.
KING: More than from liberals.
MCCAIN: Maybe you've been able to figure it out.
KING: I mean what is Rush Limbaugh -- what's his gripe?
MCCAIN: I don't know. I've never met Mr. Limbaugh. I respect him. He's highly regarded and very popular. But, look, what we're doing -- we're on the path to uniting the party. More and more "conservatives" are coming on board. In the Virginia and Maryland elections, we got a good percentage of the "conservative voters."
I realize that we have to unite the whole party and I'm trying to reach out to all parts of the party to unite us. And that's the only way we're going to prevail against the Democratic nominee in November and so...
KING: So you don't know what it is they have?
Don't they have specific issues...
MCCAIN: Look, I have taken positions from time to time that some in the party haven't agreed with. I understand that. When I did the investigation of Abramoff there were some Republicans that weren't happy. When seven Republicans and seven Democrats got together and we got all the judges confirmed -- literally all but two -- there were some who didn't agree with that.
But, look, my job -- my job, if I am the nominee of the party, is to unite the party. And I think, also, then the next step is to try to get Independents and the old Reagan Democrats. And that's the way we win elections.
KING: Can, though, Senator, can you -- we'll go back to the Straight Talk Express now.
KING: Can you get the Independent and the Limbaughs?
MCCAIN: Well, I...
KING: It doesn't seem that way.
MCCAIN: Look, I am who I am, to start with, and that's a conservative. I have a conservative record and that's by any gauge that you want to look at. The question I think that people are going to be asking themselves, who can best make this nation safer?
We have -- and who can address the economic challenges we face?
I think those are the two major challenges we face.
I'd like to convince people, because of my extensive background on the economy and knowledge, that I can see a path through this difficult time we're in. I can also assure them that I'm most qualified to take on the transcendent challenge of the 21st century. And I understand what it takes to win presidential elections. You have to broaden your base, you have to do well, you have to ignite people and get them out there really working to -- for your candidacy.
MCCAIN: But you can't just play to one side, right?
You can't play to one (INAUDIBLE).
MCCAIN: Well, look, I'm reaching out to all elements of my party. There are -- there are candidates that supported -- there are voters that supported Governor Romney, there were voters that supported Fred Thompson. There -- look, I know we have to unite the party. I'm doing that. I'm showing them my record and I'm standing on that record.
But I also think the important aspect of this campaign is the vision and the ability to lead this nation in the 21st century. That's what they look for at the end of the day.
KING: And you think you will pull it together?
MCCAIN: Oh, sure. Yes. I am sure. Look, primaries are tough, Larry. You've been around long enough to have seen, primaries are tough. In many ways, they're much tougher than a general election, because, one, they go on for so long. And, second, you get some real bitterness -- or sometimes bitterness.
And so -- but it -- and it take as little while to heal. One of the reasons why I was so grateful to Governor Romney today -- appreciative of Governor Romney today is that he waited a very short period of time. And I'm going to ask Governor Romney -- in fact, I already did -- if he would spend time traveling around the country with me. He's very popular in some parts of this country -- in a lot of this country. And he can help us to continue to unite the party.
KING: You mention often about being a soldier in the Reagan Revolution. How do you feel about George Bush?
Do you want him to campaign with you?
KING: Are you a soldier in the Bush Army?
MCCAIN: Well, I came to the Congress, you know, a long time ago when the "Reagan Revolution" was going on, and I was proud to be part of it in a broad variety of ways. And we look back on that as a real turning point in the history of this country.
I would be proud to have President Bush campaign with me and support me in any way that he feels is appropriate. And I would appreciate it.
KING: Despite his low popularity?
MCCAIN: I'm not the kind of person that looks at people's popularity. I have a very good relationship with this president. I'm glad he won in 2000 and 2004. We have had some disagreements, but we share many, many values and principles of our Republican Party. And I'm not going to -- it's just not me to say that somehow because someone may not be popular, that they shouldn't campaign with me. In fact, I welcome it.
KING: We'll be right back with Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican -- if he isn't the candidate this year, something's really screwy.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I am proud to carry the banner of a conservative Republican with a record of conservative thought and action and voting and principles and values into this election in November. And I need you to help me get there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Senator McCain.
Do you think about your competition in the fall?
MCCAIN: Some. But you need to stay focused on the race you're in. You and I have known a lot of people who have taken the next -- that race for granted and concentrated on the next one. And that's not a smart thing to do. There will be plenty of time, frankly, to focus on who the candidate is.
KING: Do you respect both?
MCCAIN: I respect both. And this will be a respectful debate. This...
KING: Oh, it will?
MCCAIN: Americans want a respectful debate. Yes.
KING: This is not going to be...
MCCAIN: Yes. Americans will have a choice between big government and small government, increased taxes or less taxes, government health care or let the families decide, national security -- whether we have a date for withdrawal or we allow this new strategy under General Petraeus to continue to succeed.
KING: Let's get to the war in Iraq.
KING: Both Mr. Obama and Senator Clinton have been taking aim at you on the issue of that war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator McCain said the other day that we might be mired for a hundred years in Iraq...
OBAMA: A hundred years -- which is reason enough not to give him four years in the White House.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I look forward to making it clear that I have big differences with my friend, Senator McCain. He is happy to have our troops in Iraq for a hundred years. I want to start bringing them out in 60 days when I become president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A hundred years?
Did you say that?
MCCAIN: Look, people who cover this campaign and know me know that that's completely out of context. The fact is that we've been in Japan for -- since 1945. We've been in South Korea since 1950 -- actually, really longer than that. We're in Kuwait right now -- American troops are. American -- we have an American base in Turkey, as you know. Look, American troops -- we've been in Germany since the end of World War II.
The point is anybody who understands American public opinion and the nature of this conflict knows that it's casualties. It's casualties. And this strategy is succeeding. And neither Senator Obama nor Senator Clinton had any experience or knowledge to know that this surge would succeed. And then they've been saying up until a couple of days ago that there's no way that the Iraqi government would function politically.
They just passed a law for Sunnis for provincial elections; a budget, which we haven't been able to do here in Washington.
So the security -- if they understand warfare -- and I'm sure they do. Let me just put it this way. Counter-insurgency, you provide the military a secure environment and then the political, economic and social process moves forward.
So it's not a matter of how long we're in Iraq, it's whether we succeed in Iraq or not.
And both Senator Obama and Clinton want to set a date for withdrawal. That means chaos. That means genocide. That means undoing all the success we have achieved and Al Qaeda tells the world that they defeated the United States of America.
KING: But we...
I won't let that happen as president of the United States.
KING: Let me -- here -- are you saying, though, that we will have to stay the -- like Japan...
MCCAIN: No, of course not.
KING: ...like Korea, like Germany?
MCCAIN: Of course not.
KING: You're not?
MCCAIN: Not unless -- not unless that there is an arrangement between the Iraqi government and the American government -- the same way there is an arrangement between the Kuwaiti government and the American government. If those countries want to have some kind of relationship, the same way we have with the South Koreans.
But if they don't want to and we don't feel a need to do so, obviously it is keyed -- this whole thing is keyed to Americans being able to withdraw and come home with honor, not in defeat. Not in defeat -- with honor.
KING: You were a strong opponent of the war initially.
MCCAIN: Yes. KING: Not of going -- but of the amount of troops we sent.
KING: You were a strong critic of the secretary of defense and the president and Cheney and that whole crew, right?
MCCAIN: Sure. Absolutely. And I...
KING: So your argument was...
MCCAIN: And I was criticized by Republicans at the time, because I said we had to have this new strategy. And that strategy is succeeding with one of the great generals in American military history.
KING: But is succeeding based on failure, though?
In other words, it's a...
MCCAIN: Well, listen, I -- it's not...
KING: It's a result of failure that it's succeeding.
MCCAIN: Yes. It's a strategy we should have employed from the beginning. But, look, Americans are frustrated and saddened by the sacrifice that's been made, Larry. I understand that. I've been in war. I understand it.
But the consequences of failure -- look, don't listen to me. Listen to Al Qaeda. They're the ones that say that their goal is the United States of America and victory in Iraq is a stepping stone to that. General Petraeus has put it very well. Iraq is now -- whether it was or should have been, but it is now the central battleground in the war against radical -- the struggle against radical Islamic extremism. That's just a fact of life.
KING: What kind of...
MCCAIN: If we leave, they say they won.
KING: What kind of secretary of defense would you pick?
MCCAIN: I'll tell you, I don't know if he would stay on or whether I would even ask him or something like that, but I'm very -- I'm very pleased, as I think most Americans are, at the performance of Secretary Gates. I think he's done a very fine job.
KING: Our guest is Senator John McCain.
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCAIN: I'm running so that every person in this country now and in generations to come will know the same sublime honor that has been the treasure of my life -- to be proud to be an American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Senator John McCain.
Everyone says the economy -- the polls say it's the number one issue with the voters. The senator has taken some flak from fellow Republicans on this.
Here's something from the Democratic side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: His main economic philosophy is to continue the same tax breaks that George Bush has been perpetuating over the last seven years and that, in fact -- guess who -- John McCain criticized as irresponsible back when he wasn't running for president of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Oh, I'm glad to get all of this attention from Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. The fact is that it's obvious that Senator Obama wants to increase taxes on the "rich." You know, when you get into liberal Democrats, as he is, rich can affect a whole lot of people. I think that history shows that the worst time -- the worst time that we could give the American people what would be an impact on them of an increase in their taxes by not making these tax cuts permanent is when we're having economic difficulties.
So, of course I think the tax cuts need to be made permanent. Look, our problem with the Republican Party and in this country to a large degree was based that we didn't restrain spending. It wasn't that we cut taxes. Cutting taxes was good for the economy. It was good. It helped improve our economy.
KING: But you were opposed to it.
MCCAIN: Because we didn't have restraint of spending. And, also, I had a different plan. But I also think that restraint of spending -- if we'd have restrained the spending, we'd be talking about more tax cuts now.
So I'm sure that Senator Obama and Senator Clinton want to raise taxes. I understand that. They're liberal Democrats. That's fine with me. But that's not my philosophy. My philosophy is cut taxes as much as possible and keep reducing them to reduce the tax burden on the American people -- including corporate taxes, by the way. KING: Senator, despite a veto threat, the Senate voted 51-45 yesterday to prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods.
KING: You voted to oppose that.
MCCAIN: I voted...
MCCAIN: Because you...
KING: I thought you were against all that.
MCCAIN: I am. Let me make it very clear. Waterboarding,, in my view, is torture, and it's illegal. We passed a Military Commissions Act which allowed the CIA to use some additional techniques not in violation of the Geneva Conventions, the Anti-Torture Convention, the Detainee Treatment Act or any of the other rules and laws and conventions that prohibit cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment.
But to say that they can't use any additional techniques, in my view, is not appropriate.
KING: That's what this said...
MCCAIN: But they cannot torture and they cannot do anything that's cruel and inhumane and degrading.
KING: Because you said torture is self-defeating.
MCCAIN: Oh, oh, yes, sure it is.
KING: People when tortured lie.
MCCAIN: Sure. They'd tell you the truth and tell you things that are not true. And -- look, let me just tell you a quick story, will you?
I was in Baghdad over -- actually, in Iraq -- over thanksgiving. I met a former high-ranking Al Qaeda official who has come over to our side -- one of the toughest guys, probably I have ever seen.
I said, how did you succeed so well after the initial invasion?
And he said two things. He said the lawlessness -- because you didn't have enough troops here and things just, you know, there was a total breakdown in every aspect of Iraqi society, the lawlessness.
And he said the second thing is Abu Ghraib. He said that was our greatest recruiting tool.
So you've got to understand that we're in an ideological struggle here. And we're better than our enemies. And countries like Israel don't use torture.
We can be effective. And I believe that if we are a nation that tortures people, then we put our military men and women -- if they become prisoner in future wars -- I'm not talking about against Al Qaeda, but in future wars. If we torture people, then, obviously, that puts them in some danger. And that's why many military leaders say that we shouldn't be doing it.
KING: Have you -- well, before I ask you if you've changed on immigration, it remains a hot button issue, especially for conservatives. And we heard, when you -- you raised it at a recent Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C.
Let's watch what you said.
MCCAIN: Do we have to watch this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: On the issue of illegal immigration, a position which...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right, now, as I understand it, you first supported the Bush proposal.
KING: And then when they took public polls -- this was the accusation -- that said build the borders first before you do anything with regard to forgiveness, you then switched.
KING: That's not true?
MCCAIN: No. Look, the American people want the borders secured first. That's what we have to do. And...
KING: But they also want us out of Iraq.
MCCAIN: They want us out of Iraq honorably. And, as I've said before, well, are we back on that subject?
I said back when times were toughest, I would much rather lose a political campaign than lose a war.
KING: I meant only that you don't kowtow...
MCCAIN: And I meant that.
KING: ...to what the (INAUDIBLE)... MCCAIN: And I mean it today.
KING: But you don't necessarily agree with it?
MCCAIN: I have to know what's best for the American people. And great leaders throughout the past, who I do not compare myself with, have stood up and are counted at a time of national security crisis.
Let's not confuse immigration with this transcendent challenge of radical Islamic extremism. This evil that's trying to destroy everything we stand for...
KING: No, I only meant it as you mentioned that the...
MCCAIN: ...and believe in.
KING: You mentioned the American public wants it.
MCCAIN: Sure. Oh, yes.
KING: So I mentioned another thing the American public wants.
MCCAIN: Well, but I think your point -- and I try to make the comparison between the two issues.
KING: Got you.
MCCAIN: But, look, they want the borders secured first. And I understand that. And our proposal has got to be securing the borders first. The American people have no trust or confidence in us that we would secure the borders. So, I still think that we need tamper-proof biometric documents for temporary workers and anybody who hires them without them will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
No one should be awarded for illegal behavior. And we've got to round up and get rid of the two million people who are in this country who have already committed crimes.
But we are also a humane nation endowed with the qualities of humanity and compassion. And I'm not going to send the wife who is here illegally, of a soldier who is missing in action in Iraq, out of the country. Nor does anybody else want to do that.
But the American people want the borders secured first. And that's the message. And that's what I'm going to do.
KING: Why do you think so many conservatives are so against this feeling of being kind?
MCCAIN: Oh, I think they are. I think they're humane and compassionate people. And when you sit down and discuss it with them, they understand that these are also God's children. But they also have, as all Americans do, a deep and abiding concern about this nation's security since 9/11 and they want the border secured first.
As president, I would have the border state governors certify that the borders are secure.
KING: Some more moments with Senator John McCain right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I want to tell you, as president of the United States, I will veto every single earmark that comes across my desk.
MCCAIN: You will know them. We will make them famous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Covering all the bases with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, the presumptive nominee of his party for the -- I keep saying that -- 2008 presidential nomination. Couple of other bases; one of your top advisers, Mark McKinnon, tells National Public Radio he'll step aside if Obama is the nominee, because he would be uncomfortable being in a campaign that would inevitably have to attack Barack Obama. Your reaction, please. He's 100 percent for you.
MCCAIN: I love Mark McKinnon. He's one of the unique geniuses and great guys. I haven't had a conversation about that with Mark, but I am very grateful for all of his support that he's given us, and --
KING: Are you surprised that he would have said that?
MCCAIN: You know, I think there's maybe some clarification that I would like to talk to him about, but he's a unique person and a wonderful guy. And I'm grateful to have him as a friend.
KING: I know you are a sports fan.
MCCAIN: Yes, sir.
KING: Roger Clemens, what do you make?
MCCAIN: I don't know what to make of it. I'm a great admirer of his, and I haven't been able to get into the issue enough. But I was involved a couple of years ago in an effort to try to get baseball's attention on this problem.
KING: You led the fight.
MCCAIN: I'm glad that it's on the problem, and I -- I don't know the answers.
KING: Do you think Congress has a place in this?
MCCAIN: In all due respect, I think Congress does have, because anti-trust, but frankly, I think we ought to see if baseball and the Justice Department can handle these issues. I think it's -- those are more appropriate venues for a lot of this.
KING: More an issue of justice, then?
MCCAIN: Justice Department where the crimes may have been committed, investigated, and baseball to try to enact the kind of testing that's necessary. You know, it's really important to get the kind of testing that's -- because, as you well know, somebody is always trying to get ahead. Somebody in some lab somewhere in America today is working on a substance that can't be detected.
KING: Capital Hill battle over FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The temporary revisions passed in 2007 set to expire by the end of this week. You voted to make the revisions permanent. Why?
MCCAIN: Because we need it. We're in a new kind of environment here. The Internet, the means of telecommunications, the way that a guy like Osama bin Laden is able to communicate all over the world from some place in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I'm very serious when I say, I think it's disgraceful that the House of Representatives didn't act and this is going to lapse.
We're fighting an implacable enemy here. I cannot imagine the House of Representatives not moving forward, and letting this bill just lapse. And frankly, I was proud of the president by saying he would delay his trip to Africa to try to get this thing done. This is a compelling issue of national security.
KING: What was the other side?
MCCAIN: Well, they couldn't reach an agreement, as you know. The Senate did pass --
KING: I know, but in the House, what happened?
MCCAIN: I don't know the answer. I know they decided not to act on the bill, and it seems to me that's just not the right thing to do, when we're talking about the ability of terrorist groups that want to attack the United States of America to communicate with each other.
KING: Do you think since 9/11, nothing's happened in this country, that we are coasting? Do you fear that?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think the president of the United States deserves some credit for the fact that there hasn't been an attack on the United States of America since 9/11. I think he would be getting the blame if there was.
Second point is, I think America is safer. I think thanks to people like Governor Tom Ridge and a lot of very dedicated Americans, and the biggest reorganization in government since the creation of the Defense Department, that we are safer. But are we safe? Of course not. Of course not. And we have a lot of work to do. And the enemy, as the director of the CIA said recently, is trying to establish cells in the United States of America as we speak. This is the challenge of the 21st century, my friend.
KING: One other thing, the vice presidency. Would Romney be considered?
MCCAIN: Oh, I haven't --
KING: Haven't thought about it? Come on.
MCCAIN: No, honestly, when I start to think about it, I avoid it.
KING: How can you not think about it?
MCCAIN: Make sure you have the nomination. There's plenty of time to go through this process. And I am a person who really believes that you ought to address one challenge at a time. There will be plenty of time to address that issue. But it will be a person who is most prepared to immediately take my place if something should happen.
KING: Would you consider a woman?
MCCAIN: I would consider any great American who I think is qualified to run this country.
KING: And we'll be seeing a lot of you, of course, down the road here. But how prepared are you for this? Emotionally, physically -- are you physically OK?
MCCAIN: Sure, sure. I bring my 96-year-old mother with me wherever I go, as much as I can.
KING: Don't let her loose much.
MCCAIN: When we started this thing early on, in all due respect to the others who ran, I said, I can out-campaign them. I had 101 town hall meetings in New Hampshire. We campaigned 16, 18 hours a day. I'm proud of my campaign. I'm proud of what we've been able to achieve. We made a lot of mistakes along the way. But I'm proud of what we've done. And I'm proud to have had a chance to serve, and maybe ask for a chance to serve a little while longer.
KING: You did an amazing job. Thank you, senator. Always good seeing you. See a lot of you on the bus, huh?
MCCAIN: Yes, sir.
KING: Senator John McCain. When we come back, an outstanding political panel, Michael Medved, James Carville, Michael Eric Dyson and Kellyanne Conway. They're all next. Don't go away.
KING: And we now welcome our panel to discuss the previous 40 minutes. Michael Medved, the syndicated radio host and a supporter of John McCain, is with us in Seattle. James Carville, the CNN political contributor, democratic strategist, headline maker, and supporter of Hillary Clinton is here in Washington, as is Michael Eric Dyson, university professor at Georgetown University, best-selling author, ordained Baptist minister, a supporter of Barack Obama. And in New York, Kellyanne Conway, CEO and president of the Polling Company. She's a GOP and conservative strategist, and she's here to tell us maybe why she did not support John McCain the last time he ran for president, but is backing him now.
Michael, how did your man do tonight?
MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO SHOW HOST: I thought he did wonderfully. What I was reminded of -- and, by the way, congratulations on a great interview, Larry. Phil Graham, a great conservative senator from Texas, said it best; most Americans know in their heart there is one person running for president of the United States who is indisputably a great man. And that guy is John McCain.
Let me tell just you a little something about that. I think you know something about this, Larry. Senator McCain's son Jimmy just came home from Iraq, his 19-year-old son. He had been seven months in Iraq. Now, Senator McCain spoke about that behind closed doors to the members of the House of Representatives, but he won't exploit it politically. He wouldn't talk to you about it tonight because he won't talk about it publicly. That's the kind of human being we have here.
Any other politician would say, you know, my son just came back from Iraq. He served his country like I did, like my father did, like my grandfather did. McCain is a different kind of guy and an amazing guy.
KING: Mr. Carville, what did you make of him?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I thought it's a pretty amazing story that he's won his party's nomination. He was all but written off. And I think Mr. Medved's right, he has an amazing life story. Anybody would have to concede that. He's still got enormous problems with the base of his party. And he's going to have to deal with that.
And, come the general election, the country is very much a mood to change and he's hardly a change guy. But is a remarkable human being. There's no doubt about that.
KING: Does he go to the middle, or more to the right?
CARVILLE: Maybe Kellyanne or maybe the prof can give more insight on that. I don't know, but you can't take away that he's, you know -- you're right, his son served in Iraq. He was a prisoner of war and everything else. But he's got real problems over there with the right. They don't trust him.
KING: You are an Obama supporter. What do you make of him as an opponent?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN PROFESSOR: He's a formidable opponent. He's highly intelligent. He's lucid. He has enough fire and bite and anger when called upon. And he has a way of telling his story powerfully. But I think, as we just heard, Brother Carville just said, he's got a problem with his own base, in a sense of galvanizing them. You know, we have talked about this enthusiasm gap that they speak about in the paper today.
I think that should Senator Clinton come forward, I think that would galvanize the base better than perhaps Mr. McCain himself. I think Senator Obama is an extraordinary figure, who will be able to match him wit for wit and word for word.
KING: Kellyanne, what's been the rub between your end of the party and the senator?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE STRATEGIST: I think a lot of misperceptions, frankly, Larry, and I've taken it upon myself to scour this man's record a little bit more closely. The economy's the number one issue now, and to many conservatives that is about tax cuts; that's about entrepreneurship; it's about regulation; it's about globalization. And if you look at Senator McCain's record, indubitably, he has 25 years of pro-growth tax cuts and, most recently, he's been one of the guys in the United States Senate who has stood up to President Bush when President Bush has tried to expand entitlements, and create all these run away spending programs.
Now, many conservatives, who should be a little bit angry at President Bush for expanding Medicare entitlements and going for Ted Kennedy's education legislation and the like, they don't lay the blame at the feet of Bush. They want to transfer that to John McCain. John McCain was one of the senators who voted against George Herbert Walker Bush's disastrous break of his no new taxes pledge when he raised taxes in 1990. That's really important. He's a supply-sider. And he's got supply siders like Phil Graham and Jack Kemp to vouch for that.
KING: Got to get a break, come back with more of our panel. Let's check in with Anderson Cooper, who's back, you can all say, home tonight, back in New Orleans. Anderson, what's up?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, we are just outside New Orleans, covering a number of stories here. We are primarily following the breaking news out of Dekalb, Illinois, a campus shooting. Six people now dead, including the gunman. A number of others in pretty bad shape at area hospitals. Even as we speak, details are emerging about who the shooter was, and his connection to the school.
These are never welcome stories to cover, but we have crews on the scene tonight. We'll report all the latest on 360. Larry?
KING: Thanks, Anderson. The best laid plans sometimes go awry. Anderson Cooper outside New Orleans. "AC 360" 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. Back with more of our panel right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Michael, with the amazing turnout that Democrats have had in the primaries, does this tell you that your man is the underdog this fall no matter who is the nominee?
MEDVED: He's been an underdog for a long time. John McCain was presumed dead last summer, actually, as recently as September. He was running fifth in the polls on the Republican side. But he kept it up with straight talk and stature. And those are going to be the two crucial issues right now.
Look, I've got to acknowledge, I think the Democrats have two remarkable candidates. A lot of people on my side tend to write off Senator Clinton. I knew Senator Clinton in law school. She was my friend. She's a kind and decent person. And I think she's connecting with the American people.
Obama has an unbelievable ability to connect with the American people. We're going to have a race that's going to be about big things, not little things, about a vision for the country, and a vision that's starkly different and I think the country is going to pick the conservative vision.
CARVILLE: Look, first of all, Carville's call area, I said that Senator Clinton had to win the big three, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And everybody picked up on it, every blogger, everybody came, Mr. Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager said the race was essentially over. Now, if she wins those three, it's the greatest comeback story in American history.
And I think Mr. Medved is right. She's a remarkably tough person. And what's happened here is all the press, the columnists, and the commentators and the cable TV jocks, everybody is setting her up, and she wins Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and goes in there with a head of steam, she's going to be the nominee of this party and it's going to change perceptions, because They have allowed her to build up a head of steam. She has a tough test to pass. I think she can pass. I really do.
KING: Your side may take her for granted?
DYSON: No, Not at all. I think they understand that Hillary Clinton is formidable. But what's amazing, if we talk about come back stories, let's not forget, Barack Obama was so far outside the consideration of this inevitability that represented Mrs. Clinton. I think the Barack Obama story, the fact that he has the kind of latitude and the kind of depth at the same time suggests that he's not only charismatic, but he's got political policies.
He released today his own prescription for the working class, and those who are the underclass and the poor. I think it's very important that he be taken seriously, both as a charismatic figure, but as a thinker in big politics as well.
KING: Kellyanne, who do you fear the most of the two? CONWAY: I fear Barack Obama more, although I think they are both very worthy opponents. And nobody's whose last name is Clinton should be counted out of anything. I think time is on her side. She's on the run. And if you can take the ball off the field and regroup in private, you can do that. She doesn't just need to win, Larry, she needs to win big. This is proportional delegation.
Her margins have been going the other way. She failed to crack 40 percent in either Maryland, D.C. or Virginia the other night. Obama has an advantage in the popular vote. He also has an advantage in the intangibles, this connected tissue that makes 16,000 people show up in Boise, Idaho to see him.
KING: Let me -- I got to cut you, because I have to take a quick break before we come back. Don't go away.
MARIE DA SILVA, CHAMPIONING CHILDREN: Come on. This way.
Children just bring joy to me. That's why I'm a nanny. They need to be surrounded by love. They need education. They need attention. If I can make that happen in Los Angeles, why can't I do it for children elsewhere?
I was born and bred in Malawi. We have hundreds and thousands of orphans, and most of them, of course, are orphaned by AIDS. They live in very bad conditions. It's literally poverty.
I'm Marie Da Silva, and my mission is to education AIDS orphans in Malawi. AIDS is like a plague in Malawi. I have 14 members of my family who have died of AIDS. When I visit Malawi, I visit my family at the graveyard.
When I heard that the AIDS orphans would have no school, it touched me to say, I need to help. The school is in the house that I grew up in. They study in my bedroom. They study in the pantry. They study in the garage.
We have a lack of just about everything. But we give them courage, and they are doing amazingly well. This is their century. Every month, I sent in 1,000 dollars, about 30 percent of my monthly wages. I reached out to my nanny friends, and today, there are nannies that give me 10 dollars a month.
I do this because I know that the children there need it. When my father was dying, there was this huge Jacaranda Tree outside that brought in light. For me, the Jacaranda Tree symbolizes hope. And that's what I want to give to the children at the school.
KING: Impressive work by Marie Da Silva. By the way, she is also the nanny for actress and former TV host Ricki Lake, who was a recent guest on this program. You can nominate your own hero by visiting CNN.com/Heroes. You never know, you could see your hero right here on CNN.
All right, James. You say, if she wins it will be the greatest comeback.
CARVILLE: It will be.
KING: You think she might?
CARVILLE: I think she is a remarkable person. I think she's on top of her game right now. It just seems that every time she gets behind and things go bad, she has this reservoir of strength. Prof is right, Senator Obama -- and I think Michael and Kellyanne, everybody recognizes his talent. But you can't spike the ball before you get in the end zone. You don't take the home run trot before you hit it. I think the Obama people are starting to take this thing for granted. And the Clinton enemies are starting to write the obit.
Let's wait and see and let's give her a chance, because we might be witnessing the greatest political comeback ever. Let's give it a chance to play out.
KING: I wrote it down.
DYSON: I don't think they are writing her obit. I don't think they are not taking the trot of celebration. And I don't think they are over-exuberant. But I think you have to have enough confidence in the ability to project to the American people that you're capable of leading this nation without in any way being condescending or dismissive of Clinton.
CARVILLE: Plouffe has said it doesn't matter. He's said, we've already won. And I don't think you can discount the people of Texas, discount the people of Pennsylvania, discount the people of Ohio, Michigan, Florida.
KING: Let's get one of our others in. Michael, you think she can do it?
MEDVED: My quick question for Professor Dyson would be, will they allow the 336 delegates from Florida and Michigan to get a chance to vote at the Democratic convention? Or is Obama, of all people, going to disfranchise 1.6 million Democrats who actually went out and voted and voted for Hillary Clinton in a Florida primary?
DYSON: First of all, it's not up to Senator Obama. He certainly wouldn't disenfranchise anybody. He doesn't want to see a repeat of Florida. Number two, from the very beginning the Democratic Committee said to those states that if you go ahead of Super Tuesday, you will not be seated. That is not up to Senator Obama. Please don't rest that on him.
Senator Obama wants everybody to be counted and counted fairly. If you are not part of the political stakes out there, and you didn't know that Michigan and Florida are going to be counted and therefore, you didn't show up, that's unfair to count them. I think Senator Obama understand that, and the American people get that very well, as well.
KING: Kellyanne, what's going to happen? We've only got about 35 seconds.
CONWAY: This will be Obama and McCain. The irony is that the swing voter this year will be white independent men. They will be in play if Barack Obama and John McCain are the respective nominees. Look, there's a convergence of two divergent things. Number one, the country is increasingly culturally conservative, with a small C. Every time marriage is on the ballot, it passes. People are increasingly pro-life. They don't like taxes.
But the Democrats have this huge advantage in mobilization and excitement of their voters. I'm very fascinated to see how that all turns out. My greatest fear is what the turn out figures have been so far in these early contests.
KING: Thanks to all of you. We'll be calling on all of you lots more. Tomorrow night, Kathleen Turner. She's got a new autobiography, "Revealing All," on Friday's LARRY KING LIVE. That's what I call a sexy tease. Go to CNN.com/LarryKing for lots of other stuff. You can email upcoming guests or download our podcast. This week it's Michelle Obama. Or check out our King of Politics section. It's all there, CNN.com/LarryKing. Now it's time for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?
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